Former FC Barcelona player Ronaldinho kicks the ball during the friendly soccer match between FC Barcelona legends and Manchester United legends at the Camp Nou stadium in Barcelona, Spain, Friday, June, 30, 2017.

43-year-old Ronaldinho is still somehow the most joyful footballer on the planet

Eight years have passed since Ronaldinho hung up his boots for good and it’s well over a decade since he was at his peak in Europe.

Lamine Yamal, Barcelona’s latest wonderkid who has just scored on his debut for Spain, has been dubbed the new Ronaldinho. He wasn’t even born when the Brazilian icon picked up his Ballon d’Or.

A whole generation of footballers are coming through that were too young to have seen Ronaldinho at his best. Yet his name remains as the standard-bearer, consistently namechecked, like millennials that grew up in the 90s having missed out on Diego Maradona.

To say the streets won’t forget Ronaldinho is like saying Miles Davis wasn’t bad at playing the trumpet. Ronaldinho is the doyen of streets won’t forget. He transcends the genre.

Even now, at the age of 43 and after all those years of living the good life, Ronaldinho still just takes the piss when strolling out onto the pitches for charity matches.

The latest example saw a Barcelona Legends side take on Maccabi Haifa in Israel. Barcelona’s teamsheet included Rivaldo, Ludovic Giuly and Javier Saviola but it was Ronaldinho – as ever – that stole the show.

Barcelona’s elder statesmen ran out 5-1 winners, coming from behind and scoring all five goals in the second half. Ronaldinho put the visitors ahead just before the hour mark but even better was a ridiculous solo run that he would’ve been proud of back in his professional playing days.

Admittedly the Maccabi old boys didn’t put in the most convincing challenges, but he still managed to ride three challenges after a quick give-and-go to surge into the opposition box.

It even looked as though one last piece of delightfully quick footwork was enough to round Nir Davidovich, but the Maccabi ‘keeper just about managed to scramble the ball back.

But it was a moment without the ball even in play that was the true highlight.

Looking into the crowd with that trademark grin, he seemed to move in slow motion with a perfectly executed feint to evade an onrushing pitch invader as if they were a Numancia full-back from 2005.

“I miss everything, especially the friends I made along the way,” Ronaldinho reminisced in an emotional interview a few years back.

“Sometimes we spend more time with our teammates than our own families. I miss training, matches, chatting with my teammates. I think I miss everything.”

“My retirement was too soon, but I still have a very active life, travelling a lot all over the world.

“To be honest I haven’t sat down to think about this. I am very fulfilled, I stopped playing because I was satisfied with what I had done in football. That’s my feeling, I’m satisfied with everything I have accomplished.”

Long after he retired, Ronaldinho still looks in his element on a football pitch.

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